Ireland is “nowhere near” where it needs to be to ease the current coronavirus restrictions, according to the Tánaiste.
Cabinet will meet next week to consider the restrictions; however, senior figures have warned that a significant easing is unlikely.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said most of the current restrictions are likely to remain in place.
“No decision has yet been made on restrictions,” he said. “That decision will be made by Cabinet next week,” he said.
“I think it is fair to say we are nowhere near where we need to be at present to ease Level Five restrictions.
“But, of course, that doesn’t mean that schools can’t open in February and there is, of course, the possibility of opening more construction sites because they are not supposed to be closed in normal Level Five.”
He said cases numbers are not falling as quickly as hoped.
“We are still seeing more than 2,000 cases per day,” he said. “More than 200 people are in ICU with about 2,000 in our hospitals.
“Things are starting to fall slightly in terms of cases and hospitalisations but not at the pace we would like.”
It comes as the Chief Medical Officer warned that there could be as many as 1,000 virus-related deaths recorded this month.
In a letter to the Health Minister last week, Dr Tony Holohan said the January death toll was likely to be between 500 and 1,000.
He said even “optimistic projections” suggest the country will be recording between 800 and 1,6000 cases a day by the end of January.
This afternoon, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care hit another record high – with 214 patients in ICU. There are 1,949 people in hospital with the virus.
As of last night, 121,900 people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the majority were administered to frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff.
Up to last night 121,900 vaccines given to our frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff in nursing homes. Well done to all involved, especially @paulreiddublin @CcoHse @HSELive @roinnslainte @AmbulanceNAS @defenceforces pic.twitter.com/Zssb5hGXzB
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) January 21, 2021
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin last night told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party that most of the current Level 5 restrictions would be extended into February.
It means non-essential shops, hairdressers and beauticians are all likely to remain shut.